Upon further review: Vince Young’s play against the Broncos

It feels like I just did this, because I did, but another one of the questions coming out of Sunday’s game against the Broncos is just how well exactly Vince Young played.  I think the offense is being underrated as a reason for the defeat-the lack of second half productivity was a big deal, but the first half’s failures to turn yardage into points is to me the real reason the Titans lost, as they had three drives inside the Bronco 35 that didn’t result in any points on the board.

The normal disclaimers apply: I’m doing this off TV footage, as I didn’t attend the game. That means I’m not seeing things from VY’s perspective and my analysis could easily be skewed by that. I also tried to do this more as a quick-and-dirty analysis, giving him a simple “plus” or “minus” for good and bad plays, along with a couple “no grades” where I didn’t feel comfortable making a decision.  I also didn’t spend any time writing about formation and whatnot, since there’s video.  Thanks to earlers for putting that together.  That said, on with the show…

1-10-TEN 20 (1Q 15:00) V.Young pass incomplete short middle to J.Gage.
Minus. Shallow cross.  It should have been caught, but VY’s pass is late/behind and Gage has to reach back for the ball.  On a short pass like this one, you need a better throw.

3-8-TEN 22 (1Q 14:17) (Shotgun) V.Young pass short right to N.Washington to TEN 29 for 7 yards (C.Bailey).
Minus. Stop route. Complete against Champ Bailey in single coverage, which is nothing to squeeze out, but VY’s pass doesn’t have enough on it and is too far outside. Washington ran beyond the sticks on his route, but has to come back for the ball.

2-3-TEN 35 (1Q 11:56) V.Young pass short left to J.Cook to DEN 48 for 17 yards (B.Dawkins).
Plus.  Cook lines up outside, gets a good release against the jam and runs a slant route. VY does a good job of hitting him in stride and it’s a nice gain.

1-10-DEN 48 (1Q 11:21) V.Young pass deep left to B.Scaife to DEN 23 for 25 yards (D.Williams).
Plus.  Scaife runs a corner route from his inline position next to Roos.  He doesn’t have much separation from Williams, but does have body position. VY hits him with a nice pass.

2-11-DEN 24 (1Q 10:09) (Shotgun) V.Young pass incomplete short left to C.Johnson.
No grade.  Dumpoff.  The Broncos bring a corner blitz, so VY has to get the ball out.  CJ wasn’t looking for the ball, so this feels like a throw away. No clue what VY’s other options are, so no grade on this play.

1-10-TEN 20 (1Q 6:02) V.Young pass short left to C.Johnson to TEN 23 for 3 yards (D.Williams).
Minus.  Dumpoff.  VY takes a relatively quick look downfield, then dumps it off to CJ.  Williams is right by CJ and quickly tackles him for minimal yards after contact. Not sure why VY made a quick decision to throw, since this play wasn’t going to get more than 3 yards.

3-2-TEN 28 (1Q 4:48) (Shotgun) V.Young pass short middle to J.Gage to TEN 42 for 14 yards (R.Hill).
Plus. Three receivers to the left side with Gage in the middle of them, and they all run posts. Broncos are in man with a single-high safety and VY waits for the underneath defender to clear and Gage to open up. Nice read and throw.

1-10-TEN 42 (1Q 4:13) V.Young pass short left to J.Gage to DEN 42 for 16 yards (P.Cox).
Plus. Gage lines up outside and runs an in-breaking route. The Broncos are in man and the TE runs a flat, pulling off the underneath defender and opening up the throwing lane. VY makes a good read and completes the pass.

3-3-DEN 35 (1Q 2:23) (Shotgun) V.Young pass short left to N.Washington to DEN 29 for 6 yards (N.Jones).
Plus. Titans line up with all receivers close.  Washington and Britt run shallow crossers. VY has time to wait for them to do that and hits Washington over the middle. Not a great pass, but still in a good place and converts the third down.

1-10-TEN 39 (2Q 14:52) V.Young pass incomplete short right to A.Hall.
Minus. Hall runs the fullback flare, but the pass is a little behind him and forces him to flatten his route. Hall can’t haul it in, but the inaccurate pass wouldn’t have let him get as much after the catch as he should have.

3-7-TEN 42 (2Q 14:04) (Shotgun) V.Young pass incomplete deep left to K.Britt (P.Cox).
No grade. Jump ball for Britt about 25 yards downfield. Kenny goes up for the catch, but Perish Cox gets his hand in there and breaks up the pass. I hate the jump ball as a matter of principle.

2-8-DEN 15 (10:03) V.Young pass short middle to K.Britt to DEN 8 for 7 yards (P.Cox, D.Williams).
No grade. I’ve watched this play 5 times and am not sure if Britt’s running a little 5 yard stop route or a slant. If it’s a stop, it’s a good throw. If it’s a slant, then a poor throw by VY prevents a likely touchdown.

3-1-DEN 8 (9:24) (Shotgun) V.Young pass short left to K.Britt for 8 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
Plus. Really nice job by Dinger drawing this play up. Britt lines up next to Mariani, but they immediately cross on the release to screw up the coverage and then it’s a smash combo. Britt has outside position on Cox, and VY hits him for the score.

1-10-TEN 18 (2Q 7:52) V.Young pass short right to N.Washington pushed ob at TEN 37 for 19 yards (D.Williams).
Plus. Bootleg, and Washington is the short outlet guy. It’s a similar throw to the Hall flare pattern, and this time VY makes a better throw, allowing Washington to turn upfield quickly and outrun the linebacker.

1-10-TEN 37 (2Q 7:27) V.Young pass incomplete deep right to N.Washington. PENALTY on DEN-C.Bailey, Defensive Pass Interference, 29 yards, enforced at TEN 37 – No Play.
Plus. Simple go pattern for Washington up the sidelines, and Bailey sticks out his arm to impede his progress. I’m not sure it’s a great pass by VY, but any non-awful pass that gets 29 yards is a plus in my book.

1-19-DEN 43 (2Q 6:53) V.Young pass short left to C.Johnson to DEN 37 for 6 yards (R.Ayers, K.Vickerson).
Plus. Simple swing pass, designed to get CJ get into space and pick up some yardage. They try to run Ayers off but he adjusts well and Vickerson does a good job of hustling to clean up the tackle. No fault by VY here, and I do like the playcall.

2-13-DEN 37 (2Q 6:17) V.Young pass short middle to B.Scaife to DEN 35 for 2 yards (K.Vickerson, J.Bannan).
Minus. Kind of a triple option here, as Hall goes to the left flat, CJ to the right flat, and Bo short middle. I’m not sure I like the playcall-it seems designed to stretch the field horizontally, but instead just lets the defense not react because of the lack of a vertical threat and they’re quickly able to converge on Bo, who wasn’t really open.

3-11-DEN 35 (2Q 5:37) (Shotgun) V.Young sacked at DEN 36 for -1 yards (D.Williams).
Minus. Mostly a tight formation, and it looks like they try to run the shallow crosser that worked on 3&short earlier in the game. VY doesn’t get rid of the ball, though, and unsuccessfully tries to scramble. VY needs to show better awareness here-53 isn’t close enough for a field goal, 54 is even worse, so get the ball out and pick up 6-8 yards when it’s available.

1-10-TEN 37 (2Q :19) (Shotgun) V.Young scrambles up the middle pushed ob at DEN 45 for 18 yards (B.Dawkins).
Plus. End of half, so slightly different rules apply. The receivers run deep routes, VY doesn’t see anybody open, so he decisively takes off. Brian Dawkins kind of lazes this, concentrating on preventing VY from getting more yards instead of going up and giving him a hit and VY takes full advantage to pick up some more yards and get out of bounds.

1-10-DEN 45 (2Q :11) (Shotgun) V.Young pass incomplete short right to K.Britt [J.Bannan].
Plus. After playing conservatively the last play, the Broncos bring a big-blitz here. VY just gets rid of the ball-from the TV shot, Britt is not visible and this looks like grounding but I guess he was farther downfield on the right side.

2-10-DEN 45 (:06) (Shotgun) V.Young pass short right to K.Britt ran ob at DEN 37 for 8 yards.
Plus. Remember what I just wrote about VY needing to get 6-8 yards to set up a better field goal? This is how you do that.

1-10-TEN 33 (3Q 8:06) V.Young pass short left to A.Hall to TEN 40 for 7 yards (D.Williams).
Plus. Bootleg, Hall shallow looks to be the best option and a good enough throw for him to turn upfield and get a couple more yards.

2-3-TEN 40 (3Q 7:30) V.Young pass short left to C.Stevens ran ob at DEN 44 for 16 yards.
Plus. Stevens runs a drag from right to left, and VY does a nice job of of slotting the ball over Williams in zone coverage.

2-6-DEN 40 (3Q 6:23) V.Young pass incomplete short middle to C.Johnson. PENALTY on DEN-M.Haggan, Unnecessary Roughness, 15 yards, enforced at DEN 40 – No Play.
Minus. Dumpoff for CJ, but it’s tipped at the line. VY’s pass appears to be pretty low, no surprise it’s tipped. Haggan’s penalty is unrelated to the play, so no saving grace there.

2-8-DEN 23 (3Q 5:40) V.Young pass incomplete short right to N.Washington.
Plus. Another bootleg pass, only this time VY is under immediate pressure. He gets rid of the ball like he should, but it’s tipped by the defender and doesn’t get to Washington. Plus for getting rid of the ball and not taking the sack.

3-8-DEN 23 (3Q 5:36) (Shotgun) V.Young sacked at DEN 28 for -5 yards (B.Dawkins).
Minus. VY doesn’t like what he sees, but does see an open area to his side. The problem is, what he didn’t see was Dawkins in a kind of delayed blitz lurking behind the offensive line. Dawkins follows VY to the right side, surprising him. VY neither gets rid of the ball nor scrambles effectively, instead taking a bad sack.

3-6-TEN 13 (4Q 15:00) (Shotgun) V.Young pass short right to C.Johnson to TEN 15 for 2 yards (M.Haggan, J.Bannan).
Plus. Screen pass. VY’s throw is fine; blame execution and playcalling for any deficiencies

2-14-TEN 31 (4Q 9:10) V.Young pass short left to N.Washington to TEN 41 for 10 yards (P.Cox).
Plus. A little 5 yard stop route, thrown far enough inside that Washington can turn out and get 5 extra yards. A simple play designed to make 3rd down easier to convert, and works as intended.

3-4-TEN 41 (4Q 8:33) (Shotgun) V.Young pass incomplete deep right to J.Cook [R.Ayers].
Minus. Similar to the Stevens drag, only Cook is coming from being lined up outside instead of inline. VY’s pass this time is too far ahead for Cook to haul in, a costly mistake that kills a drive.

3-11-TEN 14 (4Q 2:56) V.Young pass incomplete short right to A.Hall.
Plus. The Broncos blitz two guys off the right side, expecting a bootleg, and get just that. Dawkins is in on VY, so, like the previous play, VY has no choice but to get rid of the ball and hope his short receiver can make a play. Blame the design and the obviousness of the call, not the QB.

1-10-TEN 23 (4Q :23) (Shotgun) V.Young pass incomplete deep left to K.Britt.
Plus. End of game desperation scenario, so special rules apply. Another jump ball for Britt, this one where he has better position on Cox than the earlier one. In more of a desperation situation, I’m more flexible. This ball could have been caught and he might’ve been able to get out of bounds. In that situation, that’s a fantastic play.

2-10-TEN 23 (4Q :16) (Shotgun) V.Young pass incomplete deep left to K.Britt.
Plus. Deep throw for Britt, go route. Any pass thrown that far downfield that goes between the receiver’s arms is a great throw, notwithstanding that Britt likely gets tackled inbounds and the clock almost certainly expires before the Titans have the chance to run another play.

3-15-TEN 18 (4Q :07) (Shotgun) V.Young pass incomplete short middle to D.Williams (R.Hill).
No grade. Hopeless hail mary from 82 yards out, whatever.

Overall, assuming I can count right, that comes out to 20 pluses, 9 minuses, and 4 no grades.  In doing the grades, I tried to grade on a scale of how I thought a very good NFL quarterback would do on the throw-the Peyton Manning standard, if you will.  On reflection, in some of my past grading on VY, especially when he was a rookie or second-year guy, I didn’t hold him to that high of a standard and was more willing to forgive him for some throws that I’m not that high on in this recap.

One thing you won’t really notice in the above is a description of the pressure brought by the Broncos’ defense.  By and large, that’s simply because it wasn’t a huge issue.  On virtually every play, VY had time to stand in the pocket, survey the field, and then make a decision; his time wasn’t unlimited, especially when the Broncos brought a lot of pressure, but the sacks this game were more the result of Vince Young than the offensive line.

Another thing you don’t see in the above is a lot of criticism of offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger.  I thought Dinger did a good job of play-calling, with some good route combinations that, when read properly by the quarterback, allowed for him to make plays.  The criticisms I’d make were of the 4th quarter play-calling, which was a little conservative.

If you want to point to one place where the Titans lost the game (and this is a little prosaic), look at third downs.  On the 10 third downs, I had VY at 5 pluses, 4 minuses, and 1 no grade, but 2 of those pluses were a decent throw on a screen and not taking a sack on a bootleg.  Really, then, only thrice did VY make the play to keep a drive alive he needed do. Those failures cost the Titans possession, points, and, when combined with other stuff, ultimately the game.

Programming note: I’ll be back later this week with a look at how Alterraun Verner played.